Tight times no immediate threat

12 years ago Joy Hartman 0

by Joy Hartman, Triangle Staff Writer

“The financing system for college is in real crisis,” Barmak Nassirian, associate exechanding-over-moneyutive director of the American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers, told USA Today last month. “Every one of the participants in the system is experiencing hardship — higher education institutions, states, aid donors and families all are cash-strapped.”

As the current financial crisis deepens without an immediate end in sight, fists everywhere are tightening around precious savings, and colleges across the nation, including Bryan, are beginning to feel the pressure of that grasp.

As colleges receive fewer donations, and students need more aid or are unable to enroll, colleges and universities have been forced to dip deeper into their endowments and, for schools with smaller endowments, this has proved fatal in some cases.

Private colleges seem to be facing the most difficulty, especially those with religious affiliations because of their small size, exclusivity, typically higher tuition rates and dependency on outside donations.

“What we may see is a shifting (of applicants) from the higher-priced, small, private colleges, to a lower-priced four-year university, and from the four-year universities to community colleges for a couple of years,” said Roger Goodman, vice president at Moody’s Investors Service, in an interview with Reuters news service last fall. Moody’s assigns credit ratings to more than 500 American colleges and universities.

Goodman’s predictions seem to be correct as a recent survey of 2,500 aspiring students by MeritAid.com found that 57 percent were “now considering less-expensive colleges due to the economic downturn.”

Seven U.S. colleges, four of which are religiously affiliated, closed their doors this past December, according to Ray Brown, director of institutional research at Westminster College in Missouri.

Although the crisis may be devastating many of Bryan’s counterparts, Bryan’s administration remains confident in its ability to cope with this difficult time.

Fortunately for Bryan, “….only a limited portion of Bryan’s funds is based on giving,” said President Dr. Stephen Livesay, “comprising approximately 5 percent of the overall budget and, of that portion, it is only down by about 25 percent.”

Livesay said that, although donations are somewhat lacking, Bryan’s non-traditional programs, such as the Aspire program and new graduate programs are actually growing, as people seek advanced degrees or new directions after job losses.

Vance Berger, vice president of Finance, says that if the economy does continue to spiral downward financially, Bryan will, “have to do more of what we are already doing…decreasing the funds available for budgeted expenses.” These funds, Livesay assured, will be for things such as campus activities as opposed to student aid.

For students that have been affected by the crisis, Vice President of Enrollment Mike Sapienza said that Bryan’s Financial Aid office is working with them on a “case by case basis.” He reports that, so far, enrollment for the spring semester is progressing as expected, but that the college may see changes in future semesters if the economic conditions remain the same.

Newly appointed Vice President of Advancement, Blake Hudson said that something that is not changing are the plans for Vision 2020 and that the college will break ground for the new entrance this Friday at 1:15 p.m.

“When I think about plans,” Hudson said. “I think about Proverbs 16:9 ‘A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.’  Dr. Livesay and the Board of Trustees have followed the wisdom of this verse with the plans for Vision 2020.”

According to Hudson, Bryan contracted a development consulting firm to conduct a feasibility study on the Vision 2020 plan. Based on feedback from alumni and friends who participated in the study, the firm identified the new entrance as the top priority and Bryan has received the donations and pledges to make it a reality.

“We will approach other elements of Vision 2020 in the same manner as the entrance project,” Hudson said. “We will not proceed until we have the funding commitments.  This is good stewardship and it allows the Lord to direct our steps.”

Livesay echoed this desire as he expressed his goals for Bryan’s financial situation as a whole: “It’s important to know that God knows…and has always been faithful. My heart is to remain equally faithful.”